Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Reputation of PR - The Reputation of Marketing

I am a PR person. Its what I do. I am proud of what I have done in PR and I get very cross with practitioners who bend the rules.

The boundary between lying, hype and spin, creative content is pretty narrow and the latter is much miss understood. Once, I used to write up a lot of customer case studies and while the applications should, in theory, have been the same, the stories ranged from vernacular art to asset contribution for the same story. Was this spin or creative use of the same data to offer a relevant approach to a number of editors? I used to write the press releases and packs for new product launches. Many product upgrades are often technically interesting but often show little by way of enhancement in practice. Persuading a product manager to expound the relative merits and note that the new development comes from experience and good evolutionary design offered an opportunity to tell the same story in feature length detail from different perspectives for months and was far more interesting to users that the label 'new'. Was this spin or creative use of the same data to offer a relevant approach to a number of editors? To be sure, it was not lying or hype.

The one truth that I have been aware of is that the knowledge, wisdom and sense of the public is pretty good and pretty accurate most of the time. Redundancy is not a very good time in organisations but long before an announcement is made, most people know or have a feeling that its coming. The announcement plan has to be carefully developed and executed. But handing bad news is in most respects no different to handling good news (what is hard to manage, and experience is a great tutor, is the guilt and sense of loss of the people who are not made redundant).

The business of acquiring and selling companies with the interesting pressure of all manner of people seeking some indication of what is going on is always can be a time of considerable pressure to bend the truth. But, even today, if the opportunity came my way I will buy and sell companies and will act for organisations that want to do the same. And, as I say to those who enquire, would they really want me to be more specific when talking about people's lives, jobs' savings and ambitions? If so, they have the wrong person.

Was this spin or straight talking? To be sure, it was not lying or hype.

And so the work of PR goes on. There is no real reason to stretch the truth. Unless, of course you lack creativity and live at the bottom of a well. I guess there are a lot of so called PR people who do both and some of them do it with great aplomb.

Lets contrast this with the same work but undertaken as a marketing exercise.


The independent production company at the heart of the BBC's royal row had previously used the same footage of the Queen apparently storming out of a photoshoot to sell the series abroad, sources claim. The fact that she was 'entering' the sitting did not matter a jot to the marketers.

O2's iMode has been abandoned because it the 'Internet' service was limited to services no one wants or paid for content (£10m spent to get 260,000 customers) and was just like a similar bling product "Surf the Net, Surf the BT Cellnet" (the service was a failure with consumers, who quickly discovered it was nothing like the internet they knew).

It is now possible to pay for your organic food with a green credit card, to live in the tree house of your dreams thanks to green mortgages, and put all your hard-won lucre from saving the planet into a green bank account. Cynics, reports the FT suggesting that green products are as much an exercise in hype as last week’s Live Earth concerts.

RBS Private Banking is designed specifically for customers who expect personal service and excellent products (front page) .... We may use and share your information with other members of the Group to help us and them assess financial and insurance risks; recover debt; develop customer relationships, services and systems (T's and C's).

The list of this kind of marketing is endless.

The reputation of Marketing seems to be one of high cost, silly slogans, scream marketing and - well - lies!

Is this what we teach in business schools?

Who wants to take a Marketing Degree? Who want to be associated with Marketing Communications or even 'Marketing PR'?